Tim Mowry / Fairbanks Daily News Miner / January 8, 2005
Bad weather, short days and lack of snow in some spots have conspired to frustrate hunters participating in the state's aerial wolf control programs this winter.
The total harvest as of Friday in the four regions currently open to aerial wolf hunting was 51 wolves, according to officials with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Pilot-gunner teams have reported taking 21 wolves from Game Management Unit 13 in the Nelchina Basin, 25 in Unit 16B west of Cook Inlet and five in McGrath's Unit 19D East. No wolves have been taken in Unit 19A in the central Kuskokwim River area.
"It's probably down from what we'd like to see but given the circumstances it's probably the best we could hope for," said Bruce Bartley, information officer for ADF&G in Anchorage.
Last year marked the first time in 10 years Alaska officials allowed a lethal wolf control program and hunters reported killing 144 wolves--127 in Unit 13 and 17 in Unit 19D East.
The Alaska Board of Game adopted wolf control programs in Unit 16B and in Unit 19A last spring and permits were issued for all four areas in late November. State officials plan to begin a fifth predator reduction program in Unit 20E near Tok "any day," according to ADF&G information officer Cathie Harms in Fairbanks.
The goal of the programs is to reduce the number of the wolves in the five regions by a total of about 500 to help boost moose and caribou herds for hunters.
But pilot-gunner teams have had to contend with fluctuating weather conditions and short daylight hours since receiving their permits, Bartley said.
"The weather has been horrible" in Southcentral, he said. "Either we have high winds, flat light, no visibility, snow or freezing rain."
In Unit 16B west of Cook Inlet, for example, lack of snow has hindered aerial hunters.
"The southern one-third of 16B doesn't have any snow at all, the middle one-third has some snow but a lot of overflow and the northern one-third of 16B has about 10 feet of snow," Bartley said.
Unit 16B also features less open country than Unit 13, he noted.
"In 16B there are not as many places to go," Bartley said. "I've talked to some pilots who have been on wolves but couldn't get them out of the timber."
Thirty-four permits were issued for Unit 16B and 21 permits were issued in Unit 13.
Overflow has also presented problems in Unit 13, where, like Unit 16B, pilots must land before they can shoot wolves. Pilots avoid landing in overflow because they don't want to get stuck, he said.
In Units 19A and 19D East, where gunners can shoot wolves from the air, weather and short daylight hours have prohibited hunters from having much success. The state has issued 27 permits for Unit 19A, where the harvest goal is 100 wolves, and three permits for 19D east, where the quota is 40 wolves.
"The best conditions usually occur in the spring," Harms said.
Last year's wolf control efforts in Unit 13 didn't start until mid-January, so hunters are still ahead of where they were last year, noted Glennallen assistant area biologist Becky Kelleyhouse.
"We had a little burst at the beginning but it's been very slow since then," Kelleyhouse said. "We're just starting to expect things to pick up."
Many of the pilots with permits for Unit 13 don't live in the area and the short daylight hours don't leave them enough time to fly there and hunt, Kelleyhouse said. She expects the number of pilots participating in the program to increase as the daylight does.
Fish and Game officials are still reviewing applications from pilots for a similar control program in Unit 20E near Tok.
News-Miner staff writer Tim Mowry can be reached at email@example.com or at 459-7587
(Back to Current Events 0105)
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